Not all playground surfaces are created equal. Many manufacturers make superior claims about safety, durability, and longevity, but few live up to the hype. So-called soft-fall surfaces crack, fade, become unsafe and slippery – and that’s just with usual use and normal environmental conditions.

But after revised industry safety standards – including an increased equipment fall height to 3 metres to encourage greater perceived risk – specifiers and installers must be more selective when working with play surfaces.

As The Daily Telegraph reported recently, “After years of wrapping kids in cotton wool, danger is returning to the Australian playground.”

Associate Professor David Eager, Chairperson of Standards Australia’s Children's Playground Equipment Committee, says this is a positive shift:

“It opens the door for more innovative designs that have the potential to provide Australian children with a greater range of play opportunities and more exposure to age appropriate risks and challenges.”

Playing with safer surfaces

While the changed standards have been good news for childhood development, they do present new challenges for installers and specifiers – especially in ensuring they use only the safest, most superior surfaces.

And an increased fall height means installers and their clients must be on the ball.

“The performance of the impact attenuating surface (IAS) is more critical as the potential for more severe injuries is far greater,” said Professor Eager, from the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Technology, Sydney.

“More than ever, [you] need to ensure that the installed IAS is tested and the performance exceeds the minimum safety requirement contained within [safety standard] AS 4422 for the expected design life of the playground.”

There are two options for surfaces that comply with Australian Standards – loose-fill (such as sand or bark) and wet pour rubber or synthetic grass.

While loose-fill surfaces are safe, they do have their drawbacks. Sand, for instance, needs to be specially sources and treated – and it has been linked to the spread of disease.

Where the rubber meets the risk

When it comes to rubber, not all surfaces are created equal. Some give too much bounce, increasing the odds of broken bones. Others do not stand the test of time under heavy usage and extreme environmental exposure. Inferior rubber can fade, become slippery, have uneven wear, and deteriorate.

Arguably the most innovative, proven product introduced to the market is Rosehill TPV® – the recognised brand name for the ultimate coloured rubber granule produced by Rosehill Polymers.

Made from premium virgin polymers, and combined with the highest possible UV stabilised pigments to keep its colour under the harsh Australian sun, Rosehill TPV® looks better and lasts longer. And it can be easily installed on top of the soft-fall layer as required.

The industry leading rubber granule safety surfacing has been carefully formulated and rigorously tested for challenging play and sport environments.

“It is made from exceptionally high-grade raw materials which we never compromise on. And it functions exceptionally well in all climatic conditions,” said Mandii Rayner-Hey from Rosehill Polymers.

“Rosehill TPV® has also been proven to outperform even the best available alternatives on UV weathering and long term ageing, so it holds its colours for longer, and remains supple and more flexible for longer – compared to other coloured rubber granules on the market.”

A dream safety surface for installers

From the London Olympic Stadium, to Hollywood movie sets, and performance and play surfaces all around the world, Rosehill TPV® is the rubber wetpour product of choice by installers because it exceeds the demands of end-users in challenging environments.

NT Sports & Playground Surfacing has been installing the premier product for eight years.

“In the Northern Territory, we require the most robust, hard-wearing soft-fall rubber with minimum fade, that can withstand extreme temperatures,” said director Ronnie Van Wanrooij.

“We have seen many contractors come unstuck by using cheap, inferior surfaces. With Rosehill TPV®, we have had zero warranty claims. And now the Department of Education and local councils are specifying TPV with no substitutions. Why? Because it stands the test of time.”

Mark Cunningham from Synthetic Grass & Rubber Surfaces in New South Wales agrees:

“We were the first company in Australia to use Rosehill TPV for our playgrounds and sporting surfaces. It’s softer, more flexible and can withstand UV like no other product in the market.

“We used EPDM rubber for the past 10 years, yet were constantly having problems with it hardening, cracking, chalking and losing its colour. Now that we use Rosehill TPV®, none of these problems exist.”

Superior surface specs

Specifically, how does Rosehill TPV® outperform the others?

  • Unrivaled UV stability compared to any other rubber granule in the market, more appropriate to the Australian climate. It will not go white or bleed like EPDM.
  • Over 20 consistent colours, offering architects and installers endless possibilities for creative design.
  • The coloured rubber granules are manufactured using Rosehill’s continuous line batching process. Rosehill TPV® V system allows for better consistency throughout, from colour consistency to granular consistency on sieve analysis.
  • Non-allergenic, non-toxic, contains no heavy metals or propylenes – and it won’t leach out carbon or colour pigments.
  • Needs less polyurethane binder than EPDM.
  • Doesn’t harden or embrittle over time like other rubbers. Other aged rubber surfaces feel rough to the touch, which isn’t the ideal surface for children to fall on.
  • Contains no moisture and is not porous. That means the polyurethane cannot be absorbed, eliminating the foaming that sometimes arises with EPDM.

Better still, you can combine TPV with the highest quality polyurethane binder to produce an unrivaled, cost-effective safety surfacing solution.

Safer playgrounds start here

It takes a tribe to create a safer playground. Specifiers, installers, and their clients should source the most reputable, reliable surfaces and equipment that meet strict safety standards.

Then the cotton wool can come off, and kids can be free to explore their more stimulating playspaces where risk is the greatest reward.